News & Research

Quality Assurance: The Cornerstone of Canada’s Legal, Regulated Cannabis Industry

cannabis • May 15, 2019

The C-45 Quality Summit, the birth of a new industry organization, and a Q&A with GreenSeal’s QA Manager

Many cannabis lovers assume a career in “Quality Assurance” within the Canadian regulated cannabis industry is a dream job.

Sorry folks, but “QA” pros in the cannabis industry don’t spend their workdays personally sampling product.

The reality is the Quality Assurance departments for Licensed Holders (like GreenSeal Cannabis Co.) are responsible for creating and maintaining controlled manufacturing environments.

Although Quality Assurance might not be the first thing people think about when it comes to the cannabis industry, many would argue QA is the platform the entire legalization project has been built upon.

By checking on every step of the production, harvesting, and packaging process, QA departments ensure Canadians can trust in cannabis product safety and consistency.

Cyndi Willems-Gibson works diligently as GreenSeal’s Quality Assurance Manager (AKA our “QAP”  which stands for “Quality Assurance Person”).

Cyndi (in photo above, releasing a wholesale shipment) recently traveled to Winnipeg to attend the first-ever summit for QA professionals in the Canadian cannabis industry.

She was able to share insights from her experience working at GreenSeal’s production facility in Stratford, Ontario, as well as her 17+ years in Quality Assurance (before working for GreenSeal Cyndi honed her skills for many years in QA for the food production sector).

C-45 Quality Summit: “Setting the standards in Canadian Cannabis”

Ensuring safe, consistent, high-quality cannabis for the Canadian market is the goal shared by Cyndi and all the other QA professionals in the industry.

Which is why it makes so much sense for QA leaders from License Holders across Canada to come together every year to discuss challenges, solutions, and opportunities for innovation and collaboration.

All cannabis QAPs are striving to maintain quality while navigating the same Health Canada regulations for cannabis production (hence the summit title “C-45,” which refers to the federal bill legalizing cannabis production for recreational use).

The description of the 3-day event (which took place in April) set the tone for an inspiring conference where the leadership of Quality Assurance professionals was recognized and cultivated:

“The C-45 Quality Summit will bring the leaders of the Canadian Cannabis industry together, allowing new standards to be set as we forge through this exciting time in Canadian history.

Together we will establish the Canadian Cannabis industry as a world leader in quality and innovation.”

300 participants from across the country attended and participated in round table discussions focusing on important issues identified by the organizers and participants.

Presentations on topics like “Current Trends in the Cannabis Industry” and panel discussions on issues such as “Creating a Culture of Quality” took place throughout the event.

Speakers included representatives from Health Canada, who offered some valuable first-hand perspectives on the system that has been set up to enforce bill C-45.

After a full day of learning, networking and collaborative problem solving, the delegates enjoyed dinner together at the Human Rights Museum (the one-of-a-kind glass building pictured on the event poster above).

The evening also included a motivational speech by the intrepid wilderness writer and adventure photographer Bruce Kirby.

The C-45 Quality Association is born

On the last day of the C-45 Quality Summit, a new group was formed among the Canadian cannabis industry’s QA professionals.

The C-45 Quality Association was created to give all the industry’s QA professionals the ongoing opportunity to share their experiences working within Health Canada regulations.

Our industry’s guardians of cannabis safety and quality also wanted to create opportunities to collaborate on projects with the potential to benefit the entire industry.

Cyndi (above with Vipin Vikraman, the QA from the British Columbia LH Blissco) jumped at the opportunity to join the C-45 Quality Association’s inaugural committee focused on setting measurements and reporting standards for Health Canada.

Q&A with GreenSeal’s QA

Fresh off her inspiring experience meeting with other cannabis QA leaders from across the country, we asked Cyndi a few questions about the culture of Quality Assurance she has established at GreenSeal.

Q: How does GreenSeal Cannabis Co. ensure its customers get only the highest quality product?

A: The key is setting up regular checkpoints along the entire production process.

Every item that leaves our facility goes through multiple quality assurance steps to ensure that our customers receive clean, safe cannabis every time they purchase from us.

From the materials that go into cultivating the plants to the materials used to package the product, everything is reviewed and approved by the QAP prior to use.

Q: What is the goal of GreenSeal’s Quality Assurance program?

A: I can answer that in three words: safety, consistency and quality.

Cultivating a safe and consistent product of high quality is the goal at GreenSeal Cannabis Co.

Q: What facility features has GreenSeal applied to achieve the goal of safe, consistent, high-quality cannabis?

A: We achieve this with high standards of cleanliness and state-of-the-art indoor grow rooms that are independently controlled, separate environments.

Our team spends a significant amount of time cleaning all areas of the facility and we have personnel dedicated solely to cleaning tasks.

The air in each room is reconditioned through individual air handlers that can run 100% recycled air through the grow rooms.

This affords us exceptional conservation of energy while preventing cross contamination throughout the facility.

Controlling temperature, humidity and air circulation in each space optimizes the growth of the plant and minimizes the risk of microbial growth.

Q: How does GreenSeal’s commitment to innovating in the cannabis space apply to the Quality Assurance program?

A: We’re all about innovation here, and our QA program is no exception!

Our grow rooms are at the forefront of innovation.

We cultivate our crop using vertical growing formats. This maximizes our production per footprint for each grow room.

Compared to traditional single level grow rooms, we can produce significantly more production using the same footprint.

This adds complexity to controlling an indoor environment with multiple grow levels. We again rely on our state-of-the-art environmental control system and independent air handlers.

We have multiple sensors across the room and levels. This allows us to monitor and control for any fluctuations in the environment. We strive for consistent growing conditions at all levels and areas across the room.

Q: What measures are taken to ensure quality once the cannabis has been harvested?

In a lot of ways, the post-harvest process is the most critical phase for managing conditions for product safety.

Upon harvest, controlled drying ensures that we have the best flavour possible in our finished product.

This occurs during our first hang dry as well as during our trimming process where every flower is hand bucked and quality-checked prior to the final dry where product is opened daily and monitored during a minimum of 10-days .

The quality process continues during all steps of packaging and shipping – direct to our partners right now and to the final consumer.

Quality, consistency, and safety: The three pillars of the legal cannabis industry in Canada

A big thank-you goes to Cyndi for representing GreenSeal at the C-45 Summit, and for her tireless commitment to upholding the core values of safety, quality and consistency in the cannabis we cultivate.

Consummate professionals like Cyndi and her Canadian cannabis QA peers are essential in maintaining the confidence and trust Canadians have when accessing cannabis for recreational or medical purposes.

Although the work of QA Managers often takes place in the background of the industry, their importance to its success and sustainability is absolutely paramount.

Several Health Canada-licensed cannabis producers have had to endure the painful process of a product recall.

The vigilance of QA professionals is the primary line of defense protecting against these rare events by ensuring product safety before it leaves any production facility.

Do you have any experience with Quality Assurance for cannabis? Any insights on QA from other industries?

Please share in the comments below, we’d love to hear your story!

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